Not Your Great Grandmother’s Alpha

By The Reverend Tom Vaughan

Now I’m sure all of you are wondering what I am going to say about Alpha in this article. If it’s not your great grandmother’s Alpha, then what is it? First of all for some it is important to take a step back. What is Alpha?

Alpha is a conversation about Christianity. Participants gather for a presentation on a basic topic of Christianity and there is discussion in a group setting. Before COVID it involved a meal. This was a program that originated out of Holy Trinity, Brompton, in the United Kingdom. The founder, Nicky Gumbel, is interested in how people living in the secular world come to learn about Jesus. Alpha was the result of that interest. Alpha has gone around the world and into many different environments. For those that did the older generation of the Alpha program there was a script to the sessions and a binder and a list of suggested texts. This was your great grandmother’s Alpha. You had to walk uphill in a snow storm both ways to get there but there were always snacks and treats on the counter at great grandma and great grandpa’s house!

Over the years Alpha has adapted to the times. The content is delivered with choreographed high definition videos. The materials are directed at a wider audience than before. Alpha online feels more palatable to the whole tent of Anglicanism. The incredible gift is what comes after as participants discuss their experience. There we see God at work drawing people more deeply into what it means to be a follower of Jesus. 

Alpha online has taken off during this pandemic. Holy Trinity Brompton normally has 800 signed up for Alpha and now they have over 1,200. Alpha online has been developing in Churches across Canada.

What are you doing with those who are new? I have found that this is a time many people are asking big questions in their lives. At Holy Trinity Welland we are in our second go round with Alpha online and starting to digitally engage with the people who have found our community during COVID. Alpha online gives the format for a basic experience of the faith and is ideal for the handling of the questions people are having about understanding the world right now.

Going back to the basics of the faith is something wise and discerning people around the church have been suggesting for some time. The pandemic has brought that into sharp focus. John Bowen likens the church to the school of Jesus where we are all students following and listening to the teacher. Bishop Susan worked with Patrick Paulson and Judy Paulson on Christian Foundations: A Grounding For a Life of Faith out of Wycliffe College, which is a basic resource of the faith. 

So it’s not your great grandmother’s Alpha, as wonderful as she is. It is a new Alpha developed for more people at different stages of life’s journey who are curious about Jesus.

Bishop Susan has asked me to gather with leaders in our Diocese to explore Alpha online, to work at understanding how the Diocese may engage this resource to reach newcomers and seekers who may be ready for such a program.

I would love to hear from you if this is something you would like to know more about or if you would like to be a part of the mentoring and coaching on how Alpha online could bless you and your communities.